If you’ve started blogging, or even just read a few blogs, you will have come across the notion of blog categories and tags. You may have seen a blog post categorized as a particular topic like SEO. Or maybe you’ve noticed a string at the bottom of a post that looks something like this: Tags: this tag, that tag, another tag, one more tag, how about a tag.
What are these little, hyperlinked words for and how can they benefit your blog?
What Exactly are Blog Categories and Tags?
ManageWP suggests thinking of blog categories like the table of contents and tags like its index. Categories are hierarchical. That means you can have sub-categories that “nest” under a category, but this is not true for tags.
Another commonly used simile to help you understand the difference is that of a grocery store. If you’re shopping for raspberries you go to the produce aisle. Produce would be the category and fruit and raspberries would be the tags. On a travel and dining-themed blog you might say Desserts is the category and fruit and berries could be tags, along with raspberries. Or, if your blog is only about Fruit and Vegetables, then Berries could be a category, with the specific berry, in this case raspberries, as the tag.
The main reason you want to use categories and tags on your blog is to help the reader find other articles of interest. This has several benefits. If they love your blog post about easy raspberry brownies, they may click the “raspberries” tag to see what other raspberry recipes you offer. This will keep them on the site longer, which makes Google think better of your site, as well as giving you a click to at least one other page on your site, maybe more, which Google also favors.
How to Use Categories and Tags
First, think about what you write on your blog. You may not need to use both categories and tags. If you only write about a few things you’ll end up using the same four tags on all your posts and that won’t help your readers find much because when they click the tag it will pull up so many blog posts. If this is the case for your blog, it’s fine to only use categories.
If you’re using WordPress, you definitely want to create at least a few categories. The default category on WordPress is “Uncategorized” which is where all your posts will be classified if you don’t choose one.
Remember to keep your categories broad. There should be a variety of articles under one category. Keep it simple and don’t classify a blog post under more than a category or two.
Your tags should flow out of the subject matter. Keep them simple and few. You don’t want a string of tags cluttering up the page. In the early days, bloggers thought the more tags they had, the better their SEO results would be, but this isn’t how it works. Too many tags is much less useful to your readers.
Creating Categories and Tags for Your New Blog
If you haven’t started a blog yet, it’s a great idea to create your categories and tags even before you write your first post. Think about all the articles you’d like your future reader to find and how best to group them. For example, if you were planning a fashion and style blog, you might know you’re going to be writing a lot about celebrity fashion. In that case, make a list of the celebrities you’ll be covering regularly. That way, when your reader loves your post about Scarlett Johansson, they’ll be able to click her name in the tags and read all your other posts about her sense of style.
The other thing you want to keep in mind when creating categories is keywords. Research popular keywords in your subject and use them whenever possible. This could help people find your blog when they search for those terms.
Familiarize yourself with some of the mistakes to avoid with blog categories and tags:
- Too many. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to have an overwhelming number of either categories or tags. Keep it simple and easy to navigate.
- Using the same words for both a category and a tag. Don’t do this. If you have a category for “celebrity fashion” there should not also be a tag for the same phrase
- Varying capitalization. Categories and tags are case sensitive. If you make a tag for raspberries and one for Raspberries, your blog will have two different places to find that subject. Choose one and stick with it.
- Singular and plural. The same is true for pluralization. If you tag one post raspberry and another one raspberries, your reader won’t be able to find both posts by clicking the tag.
- Creating a category for an author’s name. On a blog with multiple authors you might think this is a good idea. But if you’re on a WordPress blog, it’s a redundant one since WordPress already has author categorization.